10 August 2010

With closed fist

If you haven't heard about this story, here's a brief synopsis, followed by a quote from later in the Huffington Post column:

A guy beat his 17-month-old son. To death. Why? to quote from the article:

"I was trying to make him act like a boy instead of a little girl," Jones explained. "I never struck that kid that hard before. A one-time mistake, and I am going to do 20 years."

A May 2010 article in the Miami News by Penn Bullock and Brandon K. Thorp reported on Rekers' 1974 "Feminine Boy Project" at UCLA. The article highlighted the story of a 4-year-old-year old "effeminate boy" named Kraig was subjected by his parents to Rekers' aversion therapy.

Part of the therapy involved putting Kraig in "play-observation room" with his mother, who had instructions to avert her eyes from her child when he played with "girly" toys. An essay by Stephanie Wilkinson published in Brain, Child magazine in 2001 recounts that, during one of the sessions, Kraig became so distraught and hysterical at what must have seemed to the 4-year-old like the withdrawal of his mother's love, that he had to be carried out of the room by the staff. At home, the "treatment" continued, with Kraig being rewarded for "masculine" behavior and spanked by his father for "feminine" behavior.

After two years of treatment, apparently "cured" of his effeminacy, Kraig was held up by the psychologist as proof that his treatment worked until, at 18, shamed and scarred by his diagnosis and treatment, Kraig attempted suicide.

Last summer, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover who committed suicide in his mother's house after months of taunts about how he acted "like a girl" and therefore had to be gay. His mother had to cut down his dead body from the support beam from which he hung himself. The previous year, a 14-year-old classmate killed 15-year-old old Lawrence King, of Oxnard, CA because King came to school in lipstick and nail polish.

As a society, we equate masculinity with force, with violence, with aggression, with being "tough" and invulnerable. We celebrate it those things as virtues. To a widely-varying degree, we look with disdain, or pity, or condescension, or amusement at too much deviation from the prescribed norm. And we occasionally exact a terrible penalty for stepping outside those rigid parameters.

People, I'd say, are people. I've judged people for the way they look or act, before, in no small part because, in my experience, not to do so is to invite attacks upon one's self. This is especially true when you're, say, a quiet, intelligent young person with very refined mannerisms and speech patterns in a hardcore right-wing conservative Christian environment, surrounded by teenagers who're dead-set on proving that they're who they're supposed to be.

I know some of y'all might dismiss Jones' act as a tragic case of a crazy guy killing his kid, and think that I'm, in choosing to quote from what I know is a far-left-wing source, really stretching the story. Maybe I am.

Maybe, though, I chose this article because it's making a really good argument, and making it well:

At the very least, his own violent psychopathology notwithstanding, someone, somewhere, taught Pedro Jones that the worst thing a little boy can do is act like a girl. In the end, it matters precious little when or where he learned it, because a 17-month-old toddler ultimately paid a terrible price for that lesson.

On Sunday night, his little body wracked by agony, blackened with bruises, beaten within an inch of his life, gasping for breath in a world suddenly full of more pain than he could bear, his little light flickered and vanished into the darkness.

Maybe this time, when we read about the death of Roy Jones, before we look away and try not to think of our own children and how truly defenseless they are, not only against violence, but against an adult's determinant view of who and what they might be, we might examine the way in which we see our society and the complex mosaic that makes up our fellow citizens.

There's something there. I know I've got readers from all over the political spectrum, and I know this post is going to offend some of y'all. I'm not sorry about that. This needs to be said. People deserve the chance to grow into who they're going to grow to be without having to be afraid of what's going to happen to them if they don't hide it - whether that be, in this case, getting beaten to death, or, in less dramatic circumstances, losing the only support systems they have (I still remember you, TM), or being targeted with words, looks, laughter, and violence.

If this is cliched and/or awkwardly written, sorry, I'm a little tired, it's past my bedtime. But I had to say it.

No comments: